The South Bronx, an area with some of the highest asthma rates in the country, will soon be getting more than fresh food from Fresh Direct. Local residents can now expect more traffic and pollution as a result of the deal that relocates the food delivery company to the South Bronx.
While the $127.8 million subsidy package-which has good government, transportation, environmental and social justice groups rallying in opposition-keeps Fresh Direct from leaving New York City for New Jersey, the deal missed an opportunity to mitigate transportation, environmental, and health impacts to nearby residents, as well as the chance to reshape how the movement of goods occurs in the region.
An area already home to busy roadways, truck routes, and waste transfer facilities will now see more traffic and pollution even with Fresh Direct’s plan to purchase new electric trucks with federal grant money. Unfortunately, those vehicles will comprise only a small portion of the fleet, and the community will see little in the way of tangible benefits. That’s because while each truck won’t emit pollutants, electric vehicles still cause truck traffic, and don’t address community concerns like illegal parking, trucks using unsanctioned routes, and dangerous speeds.
Despite the over reliance on trucks to move goods into and out of New York City, government agencies and elected officials failed to encourage Fresh Direct to use the state-of-the-art rail infrastructure adjacent to the company’s new facility. If they had done so, and Fresh Direct committed to capitalizing on the rail lines in its expansion application, improved air and reduced congestion would have resulted. According to CSX Transportation, one train could have carried the same load as 280 trucks.
Economic development is welcome in the South Bronx, but not at the expense of community life. Inviting more truck traffic into the area without fully addressing its pollution and traffic impacts is a missed opportunity to rework freight transportation policy in the region, and one that community advocates see as an injustice.